I haven’t actually done the head of a pin calculations yet, but I can tell you for a fact that you can fit pretty much all of them in your pocket. The global digitization of archives continues apace, some of it backed by corporate or institutional funding, some of it the work of enthusiastic individuals.
Here’s a brief roundup of some online archives of Spanish graphic design that I’ve recently come across.
The Design History Foundation is a private institution that was established last year in Barcelona. It seeks to promote, support and disseminate the work of design historians in Spain and Latin America. Its aim is to help in the establishment and development of the History of Design through research, postgraduate and training workshops, conferences and symposia, exhibitions and publications. One of the key aims of the Foundation is to enhance the visibility of the History of Design as an area of historical studies.
I believe Barcelona’s DHF will be a great platform to promote a better understanding of design and to showcase what design historical approaches can contribute to thinking through visual and material culture. Through the Board of Trustees, we’re establishing a range of institutional links with national museums, and the Graphic Arts exhibition currently on show at the Palau del Marquès de Llió (Montcada 12, Barcelona) is its first major public outcome.
The website Diseño Iberoamericano (disenoiberoamericano.com) has just published a short overview article by Spanish design historian Ainhoa Martin, on the poster designs for the 1929 Exposición Iberoamericana de Sevilla: Diseño gráfico en 1929. La promoción de la Exposición Ibero Americana de Sevilla . The event took place at the same time as Barcelona’s International Exhibition, and was co-ordinated jointly by the government of dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera under the umbrella organisation ‘Exposición General Española’.
Beyond the interest of its immediate subject matter, Martin’s article points out the difficulties design historians face when conducting archival research in Spain. In this particular case, Martin notes that there has been no effort to bring together documentary sources, that are mostly privately held, into one public archive:
Hay que anotar que la revisión de las fuentes primariasha mostrado un panorama desolador. No se ha apreciado que las administraciones tengan interés en recuperar la documentación que se conserva en manos privadas y crear un archivo formalizado que recoja específicamente las aportaciones de propaganda y diseño gráfico de la Exposición.
This, of course, only applies to the material still in existence. Most of the papers and documentation relating to the 1929 Exhibition in Sevilla were burned in 1936 when the city was flooded, to provide heating for refugees. At least one could argue that there was a humanitarian cause for the bonfire. I still remember my shock when I first came across a similar story in Valencia, but in that case, the documents were burned to make paella. We might not have a lot of time for archives, but we’re great with food.